The disease that we call leprosy today (Hansen’s Disease) is a disease of the nerves and of the skin. “Patients with leprosy experience disfigurement of the skin and bones, twisting of the limbs, and curling of the fingers to form the characteristic claw hand. Facial changes include thickening of the outer ear and collapsing of the nose. Tumor like growths called lepromas may form on the skin and in the respiratory tract, and the optic nerve may deteriorate. The largest number of deformities develop from loss of pain sensation due to nerve damage. For instance, inattentive patients can pick up a cup of boiling water without flinching… some leprosy patients have had their fingers eaten by rats in their sleep because they were totally unaware of its happening; the lack of pain receptors could not warn them of the danger” (answersingenesis.org). The disease is spread by skin contact and nasal secretions (ibid).
Was leprosy in the Bible inclusive of Hansen’s Disease? Possibly. It certainly was a disease that affected the skin (Leviticus 13:2-8, ff), and it appears contagious (Leviticus 13:46). However, the Biblical disease may have been used in a much broader sense. Some think that it may have included numerous diseases including “leprosy, syphilis, smallpox, boils, scabies, fungus infections, all of which are of known contagious potentiality… In addition… molds and fungus growths in houses and cloth (cf. Leviticus 13:47-ff.; 14:33-ff. B.H.)” (Zondervan’s Pictorial Dictionary, pp. 217-218).
Israelite law required that the leper be quarantined from society (Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:23; 2 Kings 15:5). If the non-infected came near, the law required that the leper cry out, “Unclean!, Unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45). Whatever this disease was, one did not want it. It was terrible to be diagnosed with leprosy.
Near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus journeyed towards Jerusalem. He encountered ten lepers who stood afar off. They lifted up their voices, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Jesus instructed them to go show themselves to the priests, which was a requirement of a healed leper before he was reintroduced into society (Leviticus 14:1-2).
The ten lepers went in faith, even before they were healed. They were healed as they went. Just one returned to give thanks, and he was a Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:25-37; 17:11-19). Such displeased Jesus. He said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?”
Why did the nine not express their gratitude? 1) Did they want the benefit from Jesus without being identified with Him? Many “feared the Jews (Jewish leaders – B.H.), for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was the Christ, he would be put out of the Synagogue” (John 9:22; 12:42-43). 2) Did they have a sense of entitlement? Some do not express gratitude because they think that they are entitled to the benefit. 3) Were they self-centered, thinking of nothing and no one outside of self? Some are takers and not givers. They do not even give “thanks.” 4) Did they think that it was too far, and too much trouble to return to express thanks?
Whatever kept them from expressing thanks, it displeased Jesus. The Holy Spirit included this in scripture for a reason. It must be that this is included to teach us a lesson about expressing thanks. God wants us to be a thankful people. A lack of thankfulness is sin (Romans 1:18-21; 2 Timothy 3:1-4).
Here are some questions:
1. Are you thankful for life itself?
2. Are you thankful for the forgiveness of sins? “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
3. Are you thankful for your family?
a) Husbands, are you thankful for your wife and all that she does for you and the family?
b) Wives, are you thankful for your husband and all that he does for you and your family?
c) Parents, are you thankful for your children? They are a gift from God.
d) Children, are you thankful for your parents? Do you appreciate their instruction and guidance, hard work and sacrifice for you?
4. Are you thankful for true friends? They are there in the good times and in the bad.
5. Are you thankful for the church? The assembly ideally is a place which provides strength, encouragement, comfort and knowledge to deal with life.
6. Are you thankful for those who labor in the Lord? Bible class teachers, preachers, elders, deacons and others are those who care about your soul.
7. Are you thankful for this nation? Yes, it has its flaws, but it still provides us with opportunities and freedom rarely seen in history.
8. Are you thankful for those who went before and on whose shoulders we stand and still reap benefits?
9. Are you thankful for the Bible? God has given us an objective standard by which life should be lived. It gives us clear direction. It is a standard which when followed saves one from many troubles.
10. Are you thankful for the power and privilege of prayer? We can approach the throne of grace.
11. Are you thankful for your job and material possessions? Or, do you actually believe that no one provided such opportunity but you? Life itself is only possible due to God.
12. Are you thankful when someone is kind to you? Do you appreciate such? Or, do you take it for granted.
If you have such thanks, do you express such?
Melinda and I “do not cease to give thanks for you” (Ephesians 1:16).